A/N: Hello everyone! This is my first time writing for this fandom and I hope to do it well. Please let me know what you think!
A/N2: Special thanks to my wonderful beta, Emberwillow14 for proofing this!
**WARNINGS! PLEASE READ FIRST!**
This story will contain [eventually]: Explicit Non-Con, Slash M/M, Violence/abuse, Incest, Underage characters.
Please do not read if any of these are triggering for you.
"The King and Queen are going to be visiting here?"
Ned Stark laughed quietly at the expression on Sansa's face. It couldn't be helped; his eleven year old daughter looked so excited. He glanced around the table quickly at his other children; with the exception of seven year old Bran, who dreamed of becoming a knight of the Kingsguard, none of his other children looked particularly thrilled. Nine year old Arya simply looked bored while fourteen year old Robb, Ned's heir, actually groaned loudly. Little Rickon, only three years old, didn't seem to realize what was going on. His ward, nineteen year old Theon Greyjoy, had his usual smile on his face. And fourteen year old Jon Snow just looked disgruntled, as usual.
Ned turned to his beautiful wife, Catelyn; the poor woman looked harried. He didn't blame her, the King hadn't left them much time to prepare for the visit.
"Yes," he replied with a smile, turning his attention back to his children. "The King and Queen, along with their children and retainers, shall be here within a fortnight. I want you all to be on your best behaviour, is that understood?" The last comment had been directed at Arya, his little troublemaker. "We don't need any problems during the royal visit."
Arya stuck her tongue out petulantly but nodded nevertheless.
Ned watched as the children stood and slowly started to make their way out of the great hall, struck by how quickly they all seemed to be growing up. He sighed deeply, not looking forward to this last task, and glanced at Catelyn before calling out, "Jon! Hold back a moment please."
He watched as the youth paused and looked back at him in confusion before urging the others to go on ahead, making his way back to the table.
Ned ignored the poorly hidden smug expression on his wife's face as his son approached hesitantly; he knew that Catelyn would have gladly done this task herself with joy. There was no love lost between his wife and his bastard son. He knew she felt shame that he had brought Jon back from Robert's Rebellion to live with them at Winterfell instead of leaving the boy with his mother. Ned couldn't have done that in any case; Jon's mother had died giving birth to him. He hadn't been about to just abandon the child to face the elements, Jon was his child and he had promised to take care of him. Ned also realized that Catelyn was angered by the simple fact that Jon looked more like a Stark, more like him, than any of the trueborn sons she had bore him.
Ned sighed deeply once again as Jon came to a halt in front of him, a questioning look on the youthful face. He didn't want to do this. "Jon, for the duration of the royal visit, it may be best if you were to stay out of sight."
He felt a pang in his chest as he watched his son's face change from confused to hurt. Not that he could blame the boy; he had never hidden Jon away from guests before now.
"Did I do something wrong, father?" Jon sounded very much like the child he still was at that moment, and not the man grown he seemed to be at all the other times. It just made the pang in Ned's chest worsen.
"No," he hurriedly tried to reassure his son, still ignoring his wife's smug expression. At least she knew to be quiet now. "Of course you didn't. It's . . . too complicated to explain properly. This is just what's best, for everyone."
Jon shot a quick, nervous glance at Catelyn before dragging his gaze back to Ned, his expression changing from hurt to anger. He gave a quick, jerky bow as he said, "As you wish, my lord."
Ned hated hearing his son addressing him in such a formal manner, but maybe this would also be for the best. Let Jon think that he was ashamed of him; Ned would explain the true reason after the King and his family had left Winterfell.
Ned watched sadly as Jon stalked away in anger, running his hand through his dark hair tiredly. "Don't look that way," he growled quietly to Catelyn.
"It's time for him to learn his place in life, Ned," Catelyn reasoned, much too calmly for the man's liking. "You cannot keep treating him as though he is equal to the other children. He will become a man grown expecting much more than what he will get."
You have seen to it that he won't, Ned thought silently, his eyes narrowing dangerously at his wife. Out loud, though, he only said in a deep warning tone, "He may not have my name, but he has my blood. Jon is equal to the other children in my eyes."
Catelyn knew that tone of voice and knew that it would be for the best if she said no more on the subject for now. Ned was glad for it; he didn't want to have to try and explain to his wife the true reason as to why he didn't want his bastard son in the sight of the royal family. Besides the obvious detail that the Lannisters would never allow a bastard to mix with them, Ned wanted to keep Jon away from King Robert Baratheon. He prayed to the gods that his worries were unfounded; he didn't want to think his best friend capable of harming a child. But until his prayers were answered, he would do his best to keep his oldest friend away from his son.
There was a time long ago, while Ned and Robert had both been fostered at the Eyrie; a time before Robert Baratheon had ever lain eyes on Lyanna Stark. Ned and Robert had been very close, closer than was probably appropriate. Sometimes Ned had wondered whether their adventures had been more than just boyhood mischief to Robert. But then the moment that Robert had seen his sister for the first time Ned had been forgotten, and their bond had changed to brothers. It was what was for the best.
But now Lyanna was gone and had been for many years, Robert was stuck in a loveless marriage to Cersei Lannister, and Ned . . . Ned acted as though he had forgotten those stolen moments with Robert at the Eyrie. If the King, so starved for love, happened to see a boy who looked like a young Ned . . . Would he be able to stop himself?
Ned prayed that he was horribly mistaken.
"We have many preparations to see to," he said to Catelyn, standing swiftly and helping his lady to her feet. "We have much to do before Robert arrives."